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Next year's Hugo novel shortlist ...

... Ought to contain two novels that I've just read.

First up is "Deep State", by Walter Jon Williams, coming soon from Orbit (unless I'm very much mistaken). It's a sequel to 2008's "This is not a Game", a book which made me very glad indeed that I squeezed "Halting State" into print first. During an unfortunate hiatus from major publishing, Dubjay spent a chunk of time slaving in the guts of the game industry, and it shows in these two books. Set about half an hour into the future, "Deep State" continues the misadventures of Dagmar Shaw, gamer and erstwhile founder of Great Big Idea, an Alternate Reality Gaming start-up in Silicon Valley — in an alarming direction hinted at but not explored by the earlier novel. There are powerful ideas stirring beneath the skin of what to a first approximation resembles a taut technothriller, and it's brilliantly executed ... if you're reading my blog because you like "Halting State", you should take this as a recommendation.

Second on the block is "The Quantum Thief" by newcomer Hannu Rajaniemi, due from Gollancz in the UK this September. Full disclosure here: I've known Hannu for some years, and I've been waiting impatiently for this novel ever since I began reading his short stories at the local writer's workshop. He's Finnish, lives in Scotland, has a PhD in string theory, and — well, if you dropped Greg Egan's hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang you'd begin to get a rough approximation of the scale of his talent. If that's a somewhat recondite metaphor, then alas, recondite is what you're getting: this is deep SF, and if there's any criticism I can level it's that readers may find "The Quantum Thief" hard to interpret without a prior background in the field. However, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read it, and I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am. And "The Quantum Thief" is the best first SF novel I've read in many years.

41 Comments

1:

I fear you have condemned these unsuspecting souls to success. These are going on my wish list on the strength of this recommendation. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

2:

Thank you.

I've been looking around for something good to read for some time. Both books sounds interesting and "this is not a game" is available in the ibook store and will perhaps hold me over until the other two books come out (in US).

I'm in Europe in July and will try to pick up the "Quantum Thief" then if it's out.

3:

Coming soon - according to Am**** Deep State is coming in March 2011. It's cruel to get our hopes up then dash them again!

(Or do you know better?)

4:

Robert, "Quantum Thief" isn't out until September. In hardcover. I don't know of a US publication date as yet (although I'd be astonished if it hasn't already been snapped up; it's just not showing in amazon.com's database yet).

5:

Great, thanks for the heads up. I'll be looking for those once I finish my Heinlein bender.

6:

I'd been worried about a sequel to This is Not a Game -- first, because the book was just so good that I would have hated to see it lessened somehow (and sequels can do that); and second because, well, Halting State :). (I've been describing TiNaG to people as a sorta-prequel to HS.)

Oh, yeah, and we hate you for having these books (and others) before we do. :)

7:

If The Quantum Thief lives up to that statement, it should win all the Hugos and any other awards that are available. We usually get the Gollancz stuff at my library here in Canada pretty quick, too.

8:

Locus' online list of forthcoming books doesn't list a US date for it, so I suspect it won't make it out here until next year some time.

9:

Interesting: my view that publishers are trying to make the statement "There's no real market for eBooks." into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Barnes and Noble, Amazon: "This Is Not a Game"

Paperback: $7.99
eBook: $11.99

Sorry, Walter, I'd planned to rush right out and get it, since the webscriptions edition of "Implied Spaces" was so good, but...

10:

amazon.de lists "The Quantum Thief" as August 2011/Gollancz (and Sept. 2010 Orbit paperback and hardcover)

11:

Amazon Canada shows "Deep State" available here in February 2011.

12:

Charlie,

It'd be mighty handy if you'd let us know when these reach general availability in the States.

Thanks.

13:

Thanks for the heads up. Having read and loved both Implied Spaces and TINAG, TQT will definitely beon my "must buy" list.

14:

I loved TINAG and so happy there's a sequal on the way. And I know Hannu too, so looking forward to his stuff.

15:

if you dropped Greg Egan's hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang you'd begin to get a rough approximation of the scale of his talent"

Better be on the back of the book because it is one of the most awesome recommendations I've read. Saw it and *INSTANT BUY*

16:

I liked This is Not A Game very much - thanks for the headsup on a sequel. And... " if you dropped Greg Egan's hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang"... wow. Sold. Again, thanks.

17:

The Quantum Thief just made my to read list. Thanks Charlie. I haven't gone out of my way to read hard sf in a while, maybe going back as far as Blue Mars.

18:

Thanks for the recommendations. I enjoyed This Is Not a Game enough to review it favorably for the Libertarian Futurist Society; I don't know if you see Prometheus, but Halting State was one of the previous books I compared it to (the others were Rainbows End and Pictures at 11, for a different reason in each case). I'm glad there will be a sequel. I'm not certain how closely our tastes match, but I'll watch for the Rajaniemi and give it a look (it will be a good test of the match, actually!).

19:

16

Rick

Rajaniemi's short stories suggest that he is Very Bloody Good.

bt

20:

Where does one find copies of Rajaniemi's short stories?
Trouble is, I don't read any of the "pulps" (Analog/Asimovs/F&SF etc) any more. Is there a collection - OUGHT there to be a collection?

21:

Greg, the sad fact is that the received wisdom on the subject of collections in the publishing biz this decade (and the last decade too) is that they don't sell well. Indeed, they're very marginal, and you'll be bloody lucky to get one out of a major genre publisher.

I did get "Wireless" out of Orbit and Ace ... after nine novels and a bunch of Hugo nominations, and the advance they offered was about half what I get for a novel. Al Reynolds also brought out a collection a year or two ago. J. Random Completely New Author? Not so much, unless he's willing to go small press.

22:

Ok, so is any of the shortstories available online? If they are that good wouldn't that be a good strategy to promote the first book of a new author? Or do the contracts with the original publishers prevent that?

23:

I juts looked up Hannu Rajaniemi and saw that one of his short stories was narrated on Starship Sofa (which also has a Hugo nomination that it deserves to win!): On show no. 98

I didn't even have to skim the story to recall what it was about, I listened to probably a hundred other fiction podcast episodes since and it still sticks out.
It is a very well written, original and memorable piece of short fiction, and I wonder what he will accomplish in the long form.

24:

Hannu Rajaniemi has some short fiction online:
http://tomorrowelephant.net/fiction/

25:

Cool, thanks to you both!

26:

Mr. Rajaniemi short story His Master's Voice was one of the most inventive and original stories I've read for a long time. It managed to be fantastical but grounded at the same time. Thanks for pointing out Quantum Thief, it's now on preorder.

27:

That's really too bad. I think collections are the best way for new writers to introduce a wide range of their ideas and stories to a new audience. I LOVE single author collections and make a point of tracking them down.

Chris Beckett's The Turing Test, Ted Chiang's The Stories Of Your Life, Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six and Daniel Abraham's Leviathan Wept are all awesome collections that introduced me, someone who rarely reads the pulps anymore, to the range of talents that newer writes have to offer. And it's on the strength of these collections which have led me to seek out their novels. And only one (maybe two - depending on classification) of those books were released through a major publisher.

It's a sad thing really. The advance issue as well. Most collections comprise as much, if not more work than novels and in my mind can be even more satisfying than a single long story.

28:

Charlie, thanks for the Deep Recommendation!

I will look for "Quantum Thief" with great interest. First, because it sounds great. And second, because Rajaniemi is a fellow Finn. (The name "Williams" is a historical accident: it should be Kuusikoski.)

29:

I was completely [floored | blown away--you choose the metaphor!] by Rajaniemi's "His Master's Voice" when I heard it on Starship Sofa and I [totally | utterly | completely] agree with our host Mr. Stross on his Greg Egan / Al Reynolds comparison. That story had all of the "let's understand how our brains trick us into consciousness" craziness that Egan can pull off (kinda like Philip K. Dick tripping on Asimov) with Reynold's so-far-gone-into-the-future cartoon anthropological high jinx.

But now I have to wait to read it. Damn you writers! Write faster! I demand to be entertained!

Sigh. I apologize. Paint fumes.

30:

""The Quantum Thief" is the best first SF novel I've read in many years"

With that recommendation, it went straight onto my Amazon UK wish list. I hope you are right about a US edition so that I can buy it in the US instead.

Thanks.

31:

Our next bookgroup book has a Stross quote at the top of the back cover.

32:

Hm. "The Quantum Thief" just went onto my list of "what to answer people who ask me what I'd like to see reviews of." But how many people with quantum physics backgrounds will ask me that...

33:

"The Quantum Thief" sounds quite interesting. I wonder if any of the characters are named Alice, Bob, Carol or Ted ?

34:

@33 Alice, Bob, Carol or Ted

What about Eve?

35:

I think collections are the best way for new writers to introduce a wide range of their ideas and stories to a new audience. I LOVE single author collections and make a point of tracking them down.

A good way to support new writers is to subscribe to some of the remaining SF magazines. I was a founding subscriber to Interzone and recently realized I've been getting F&SF for more than half the time it's existed. All the SF magazines have had declining subscription bases for years and without them there's nowhere for new writers to get published and get attention (unless they go straight to novels of course). And without the magazines there would be no collections.
36:

Orin @15: For the back cover, I reckon it's a toss-up between the "Greg Egan's hard physics chops" quote and this:

it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read it, and I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF... Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am.

Charlie: Hannu's long-awaited first novel has been on my to-buy list for a couple of years now, ever since I interviewed at the AI startup he co-founded. Thanks for the heads-up, and thanks for the other recommendations - sounds like This Is Not A Game should hold off my Halting State jones until Rule 34 comes out :-)

37:

I'm sad to hear that short story collections aren't perceived as marketable, as that's my absolute favorite format for SF. Short enough to explore a singular idea, but not burdened by the overhead of a complete narrative - it's the "what if..?" set free of the "what next?"

I devour the yearly anthologies that aren't dominated by fantasy, but that's about all I can find aside from the rare single-author collections. I guess I should get myself a subscription to something, but I hate dealing with snail mail.

38:

Interesting. I read Walter Jon Williams' "Hardwired" years ago, and thought it was hack work. I'll have to give him another shot.

39:

"Hardwired" was written a few years before "Neuromancer" ... and sequentially rejected for being too damned weird, until Gibson carved out a niche. At which point it looked like commercial hackwork. Dubjay is anything but a hack, in my view: he's one of my objects of emulation.

40:

Grr. I put Deep State on my Amazon.co.uk "Books coming in 2011" list (it already has 9 entries, and one is actually for 2012 - must split off a new list - I'm sad that way) but now I see that the hardback has vanished and there's only a paperback. Hope it's a glitch.

41:

I've just finished reading and reviewing THE QUANTUM THIEF and I think you've nailed it. This book really is something else:

http://thewertzone.blogspot.com/2010/05/quantum-thief-by-hannu-rajaniemi.html

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